Power Up and Share: GeekDad Reviews 3 New Mobile Gadgets

Reading Time: 4 minutes
It is possible to take the whole mobile computing thing a bit far.
It is possible to take the whole mobile computing thing a bit far.

The days of dialing up to the internet on the living room computer are long gone. Today, many of us spend far more time connected to the digital world via our mobile devices. While more convenient, the cost of a pure mobile computing environment often comes in the form of limited power and access to our data. Keeping charged and connected is easier when you have the right tools.

Belkin Road Rockstar

Belkin Road Rockstar

Our family vehicle just became a teenager, and while driving such an old SUV saves us money, one of the things we miss out on is the technological advances from the last 15 years. Of particular note is the lack of any USB charging outlets. Road trips would consist of:

“Do you have a cable?”
“Can someone grab the other charger out of the Jeep?”
“Is that charged yet? I’m at 6%.”

The Belkin Road Rockstar allows us to charge four devices at once without having four different cables snaked from the front to the back. The device can be plugged into the dash, and the cable for the backseat charging hub can be tucked out of the way. Now the kids can plug their own devices into the charger in the back. Since each rear port has its own 2.4A, they can be using the iPad while simultaneously providing full charge to a smartphone, and Mom and Dad can share 2.4A up front for our phones.

My only disappointment was with the length of the cable. Six feet is enough to get to the back seats, but not enough to allow much cable management. Just a couple more feet would allow me to route the rear cable under the console and completely out of the way from the front seat passengers. Still, it’s a far cry better than what we were dealing with before.

Belkin MIXIT Power Pack 4000

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Me in 1990: “Sorry I didn’t call, Mom. I couldn’t find a working pay phone.”

My son in 2015: “Sorry I didn’t answer your call, Mom. My phone was dead.”

The times may change, but one thing that remains constant is teenagers coming up with excuses. Give them one fewer with the Belkin MIXIT Power Pack 4000. This small battery pack charges quickly and can store enough juice for two full phone charges. Toss it into a purse or backpack and you’ll never again have to worry about the “dead battery” excuse. If nothing else, it will at least spark their creativity in coming up with a new one.

Even if your days of checking in with Mom or Dad are long behind you, the Power Pack is still useful for when you just had to finish that Netflix series on the bus, and now you’re faced with an entire evening out with your significant other and only 10% battery life, and you just know that Timmy is going to throw up on the dog the moment your meal arrives and the babysitter will be calling frantically because the dog is happily trying to clean it up himself and she can’t find the Clorox wipes.

Ah, adulthood.

EMTEC Power Connect

Emtec Power Connect

This little gadget is like the mobile device Swiss army knife. It’s a wireless file sharing device, phone charger, and mini router. Loading up files from someone’s desktop to your mobile device is quick and easy. No more need to do the upload/download dance to a cloud-sharing service like Dropbox with all its associated data costs and questionable security and privacy. Simply drop the file on a USB drive or SD card, connect it to the Power Connect, and the files are immediately available to the connected mobile device. I personally carry around an external hard drive with a backup of all my photos, and having the ability to copy any of them to my phone at a moment’s notice to share online has been great.

Here are a few other things I’ve done with the device so far:

  • Charge my phone
  • View and copy photos stored on a Micro SD card from my Nikon DSLR
  • Plug it into my router so the kids’ laptops can access folders on the backup HDD
  • Transfer GoPro videos off a full Micro SD card onto the external HDD so my son could shoot more video
  • Copy all my MP3s over to the attached external HDD for everyone to enjoy

While the hardware is very slick, the app left something to be desired. When using the EMTEC Power Connect as a DLNA server and Windows Media Player or my Sony Blu-ray player as the front end, everything worked very well. However, when using the EMTEC app, I found the results to be less than optimal. There are no music player features in the software that you would expect such as shuffle, playlists, classifications, etc. With these missing features, as well as some little things like error messages still being in French, the software feels rushed out the door. I also ran into a lot of buffering trying to stream video from the app, both on wireless and on a wired network. If you’re going to stream from the device, I recommend using a DLNA-compatible player. You might also want to consider EMTEC’s Wi-Fi HDD with integrated 500GB or 1TB hard drive. It doesn’t have the charging and external connectivity features like the Power Connect, but if your primary use is in the home and occasionally away from a power source, the extra storage would be helpful.

One bonus function I discovered is that the wireless connection allows me to extend the range of my router. I can put this device in the kitchen, turn it on, and have internet access in the backyard where I didn’t before, allowing me to be fully distracted from writing this review as I watch the sun set over the mountains.

Disclosure: GeekDad received sample units for review.

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